Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Joyful Melancholy

Tonight I ran downstairs on a little errand and I got distracted by a basket of old photographs. I'd pulled the basket out Sunday afternoon, thinking I should go through those old photos and get them sorted. I suppose I'm the only one long on good intentions and short on follow-through?  Anyway...

Like I was saying, tonight I wandered past that basket again. I didn't really go through it but I picked up one little batch of photos to treat myself to a walk down memory lane.  It took me back to when I was working as an oncology nurse. It was a time when I felt close to a lot of patients, knew many of them over an extended period of time. I loved my co-workers and enjoyed my days working with them. I've been gone long enough that I don't very well remember the bad days, mostly just the good.

The photos were taken the day we were having a big whoop-de-do outdoor party honoring our patients.  It had been arranged for a patient to cut my hair off for another donation to Locks of Love. I won't go through that story again now but you can read about it here on Maria's blog.  Her version makes me seem like some kind of hero, so of course I'm hoping you'll read it. I'm not a hero. I do admit to being  a fast hair-grower, though.

Tonight I looked at these photos and I realized I was standing there all alone in the basement, smiling widely with the memory of that day.  I remember the patients there getting chemo asking me about my weird hairstyle that day. I'd put it into a series of ponytails in preparation for the cutting. It was goofy but I felt I had permission to be silly that day. That's actually a pretty good feeling; it makes a person feel kind of free.

When I was called outside for the cutting, I was surrounded by onlookers and even reporters.
What a weird experience that was!.
It wasn't really about me, though.
It was about Sharyn and all the other patients.
I remembered how it felt to see Sharyn getting into the fun.
I'm sure she didn't feel well, but for that moment, I don't think she was thinking about her troubles.

This was my favorite photo, though.
Look at her eyes!
She was working those big chocolate eyes for the cameras!

Then, I thought of Sharyn and all the other patients that also became friends.
I still see many of them when I'm out shopping and such.
In fact, at mall lunch just today I shared a happy hug with a former breast cancer patient.
I'd spent so many hours with her during her chemo days.
I was so happy to see her!

Sunday night, when we were out for Mother's Day, I shared a hug
with the spouse of one of my favorite patients from the past.
I love that feeling, knowing that I was a small part of their family history.

Then, the melancholy...
So many people who are no longer living.
So much sadness.
So many families with holes in their tapestry.

How do people deal with that when they do not believe in a life after this one?
My faith does not stop my grief, but it gives me hope.
And after I wallow in the melancholy,
I come out the other side with
a sense of peace.
I feel gratitude for the relationships I've experienced.
I'm happy for the time with those special people, the patients and my co-workers.

I realize my memories, both joyful and melancholy, are a lasting gift.

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